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a people living chiefly in southern China (Hunan, Kweichow, Kwangsi Chuang Autonomous Region, Szechwan, and Yunnan) in five isolated groups, each having its own self-designation (Kusu, Hmu, Hmong, Amoyi, Kame). Some Miao live in countries of Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and Burma), where they are called Meo. Total population, about 4 million (1970, estimate). The Miao speak a language of the Miao-Yao group. Their religion is shamanism.
The Miao are one of the oldest peoples of Southeast Asia. Their historical region of origin was Kweichow. Ancestors of the Miao lived in southern China as early as the second millennium B.C.. The Miao moved from China to Southeast Asia during the 13th through 15th centuries. Their chief occupation is agriculture (cultivation of maize, buckwheat, and irrigated rice); they also raise draft animals (buffalo). The Miao are known for their songs and dances and for their fine jewelry and embroideries.
REFERENCESIts, R. F. Etnicheskaia istoriia iuga Vostochnoi Azii. Leningrad, 1972.
Narody Vostochnoi Azii. Moscow-Leningrad, 1965.